1. I saw a swimming dog.
  2. I saw a dog swimming.

What is the difference between the two sentences in meaning. And is there any reason why we should change the order of the word( dog, swimming)?

  • 1
    I have added indefinite articles to your examples to improve them
    – Henry
    May 20, 2016 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


If what you saw was a dog in water swimming, and were mentioning that, it would be correct to say a dog swimming; swimming being a present participle, indicating what the dog was doing. The dog was swimming

However if the ...ing form of verb is placed before the noun, swimming becomes an adjective qualifying the noun dog. Grammatically it could be one of two things:

a) The swimming dog could have been a certain type of dog which swims a lot. I saw a swimming dog does not necessarily mean the dog was swimming when you saw it. It was just a type of dog which swims (notwithstanding the fact that most dogs can swim)

b) It could mean the same thing as a dog swimming. But it would be an unusual way of expressing it. The normal idiomatic form would be a dog swimming.

  • 1
    A good example of this might be "I saw the running celebrity Mo Farah at the BBC in London" and , "I saw the celebrity Mo Farah running at the London Olympics". Mr Farah would almost certainly be sitting and walking at the BBC but, as he is known as a runner, he is a running celebrity whatever he is doing. However when competing in a race he would be actually running.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 17, 2016 at 21:56

Consider this example-

1.I saw a lying man today.

2.I saw a man lying today.

In the first example lying is adjective.

In the second example lying is verb.

Hope this clears your doubt.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.